United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER SUA SPONTE REMANDING ACTION TO STATE
Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge.
9, 2017, Defendant Oklevueha Native Indian Church of
Sacramental Healing, Inc. (“Defendant”) filed a
notice of removal of this unlawful detainer action from the
Superior Court of the State of California for San Diego
County. (Dkt. No. 1.) Having reviewed Defendant's notice
of removal, the Court finds it does not have subject matter
jurisdiction over this action. Accordingly, the Court sua
sponte REMANDS the action to state court.
federal court is one of limited jurisdiction. Lowdermilk
v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Assn , 479 F.3d 994, 997 (9th
Cir. 2007). It possesses only that power authorized by the
Constitution or a statute. See Bender v. Williamsport
Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). It is
constitutionally required to raise issues related to federal
subject matter jurisdiction and may do so sua sponte.
Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S.
83, 93-94 (1998); see Indus. Tectonics, Inc. v. Aero
Alloy, 912 F.2d 1090, 1092 (9th Cir. 1990). Removal
jurisdiction is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1441 et seq.
A state court action can only be removed if it could
have originally been brought in federal court.
Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392,
107 (1987); Duncan v. Stuetzle, 76 F.3d 1480, 1485
(9th Cir. 1996). Thus, for an action to be removed on the
basis of federal question jurisdiction, the complaint must
establish either that federal law creates the cause of action
or that the plaintiffs right to relief necessarily depends on
the resolution of substantial questions of federal law.
Franchise Tax Board of Cal. v. Construction Laborers
Vacation Trust for Southern Cal, 463 U.S. 1, 10-11
(1983). Alternatively, a federal court may have diversity
jurisdiction over an action involving citizens of different
states where the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28
U.S.C. § 1332.
presence or absence of federal question jurisdiction
“is governed by the ‘well-pleaded complaint rule,
' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only
when a federal question is presented on the face of plaintiff
s properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar,
482 U.S. at 392. A review of the state court summons and
complaint in this case shows that Plaintiff alleges a
unlawful detainer claim under California state law. (Dkt. No.
1 at 8-44.)
burden of establishing federal jurisdiction is on the party
seeking removal, and the removal statute is strictly
construed against removal jurisdiction.” Emrich v.
Touche Ross & Co., 846 F.2d 1190, 1195 (9th Cir.
1988). “Federal jurisdiction must be rejected if there
is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first
instance.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564,
566 (9th Cir. 1992).
notice of removal, Defendant alleges that this Court has
jurisdiction over the action. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2-4.) Defendant
first contends that it is a “Sovereign Nation, ”
and that the litigation violates Defendant's civil
rights. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2 ¶ 2.) Defendant next contends
that Plaintiff lacks the legal authority under Cal. Civ.
Proc. Code §§ 1161, 1166, and 1179(a) to initiate
an unlawful detainer action in state court because these
sections of the California Code of Civil Procedure violate
the Equal Protection Clause of the United States and the
California Constitution. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2-3, ¶¶
5-8.) Without alleging any information about Defendant's
citizenship, Defendant merely avers that Plaintiff is a
“private party in the Southern District of California,
” and that the underlying value of the real property at
issue exceeds $75, 000. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2, 4, ¶¶ 4,
alleged federal “claim” is actually a defense or
counterclaim against Plaintiff. Defenses and counterclaims,
however, are not considered in evaluating whether a federal
question appears on the face of a Plaintiffs complaint.
Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60 (2009)
(federal question jurisdiction cannot “rest upon an
actual or anticipated counterclaim”); Valles v. Ivy
Hill Corp., 410 F.3d 1071, 1075 (9th Cir. 2005)
(“A federal law defense to a state-law claim does not
confer jurisdiction on a federal court, even if the defense
is that of federal preemption and is anticipated in the
plaintiff's complaint.”). Nor does Defendant, which
appears to be a church, provide any information
substantiating its claim that it is a federally recognized
tribe or “Sovereign Nation.” C.f Oklevueha
Native Am. Church of Hawaii, Inc. v. Holder, 676 F.3d
829, 833 (9th Cir. 2012) (observing that the church
“has an estimated 500, 000 national members in 100
branches throughout 24 states”). As such,
Defendant's allegations do not establish federal question
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Defendant's attempt to allege diversity jurisdiction is
defective. Defendant provides no information about the
citizenship of Plaintiff s trustee or trustees. See
Johnson v. Columbia Properties Anchorage, LP, 437 F.3d
894, 899 (9th Cir. 2006) (“A trust has the citizenship
of its trustee or trustees.”). Defendant alleges no
information about its own citizenship, but checked a box on
the Civil Cover Sheet indicating that both Plaintiff and
Defendant are incorporated or have their principal place of
business in California. (Dkt. No. 1-1.) Even if Plaintiff and
Defendant were both corporations (Plaintiff is apparently a
trust), complete diversity appears to be lacking. Moreover,
it is clear from the face of Plaintiff s Complaint that the
amount in controversy “exceeds $10, 000 but does not
exceed $25, 000.” (Dkt. No. 1 at 12.) In its own
Answer, Defendant checked a box that carries the explicit
instruction: “Do not check this box if the complaint
demands more than $1000.” (Dkt. No. 2 at 1.)
Accordingly, Defendant's allegations do not establish
diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 either.
have not adequately established a basis for this Court's
subject matter jurisdiction. The Court must remand the case.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
on the above, the Court sua sponte REMANDS the
action to the Superior Court of the State of ...